Sherise VD: Pretoria, 2020 (Unsplash)
From Lion’s Roar:
Nelson Mandela said that ubuntu is “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievement of others.”
I can relate Mandela’s statement to my upbringing. When my mother was pregnant with me, she went through immense suffering because my father left her. She was a teacher, and at that time teachers who gave birth had to take an unpaid leave of absence for a year. My mother could not afford to take this leave, as she wouldn’t have been able to provide for her three sons.
So my mother and my aunt concealed the fact that she’d just given birth, and when I was only a month old, my aunt took me in, even though she had six other children, including an eighteen-month-old daughter. My aunt brought me up as her own, and I called her “Mama.” Guests were not able to distinguish who were her biological children. My aunt’s house was always full of extended family. When we had supper, there would be twenty plates on the table, plus two extra plates in case someone hungry came by.
This is a taste of the ubuntu spirit, the ability to forget yourself as an individual and regard yourself as interconnected to others. If we compare ubuntu to Buddhist teachings, it’s closely linked to anatta (no-self). I have to consider the wellness of the whole before I consider my own interests and needs. This is the culture that has been passed on to me by my ancestors.
flowcomm: Jacarandas, Pretoria, 2016 (CC)